Doctoral Guidelines and Paperwork

The student’s doctoral chairperson is responsible for ensuring that student paperwork is completed and a copy given to the departmental secretary to include in each student’s file. The department secretary typically is aware of the latest forms that need to be completed and can provide students with electronic copies of the forms. However, it is the student’s responsibility, not the secretary’s, to make sure that all necessary forms, deadlines, and procedures are completed in compliance with university guidelines.

Doctoral Committee

A student’s doctoral committee should be established by the end of the second year of graduate work. At admission, a member of the core faculty is assigned to serve as each student’s academic advisor. The advisor meets with the student prior to the start of the fall semester and develops a preliminary plan of study. The faculty member will serve as the student’s academic advisor until the student selects the Chair of his/her doctoral committee. The advisor may or may not eventually be the chair of the student's dissertation committee. This often depends on whether the advisor's area of expertise is relevant to the student's interest. However, the advisor will, in any event, be in a position to direct the student to faculty members with the most appropriate skills. Students also are encouraged to consult faculty other than the advisor on any matter of concern or interest to them. Once a student selects a chair and doctoral committee, the chair, along with the doctoral committee, approve the formal plan of study and will provide ongoing guidance regarding the student's academic program.

The doctoral committee must consist of either four or five members, depending upon the student’s program of study. If the degree program is structured to include one 24-hour cognate, then the committee will typically consists of four members: two from the student’s major area (school psychology), one from the cognate field, and one member appointed by the Graduate School. Students are expected to develop a doctoral committee no later than the end of the spring semester of their second year.

School Psychology Faculty Dissertation Load

The school psychology faculty developed a dissertation load limit policy with the goal of helping students complete the dissertation in a timely manner. Limiting the number of committees any faculty member can chair helps ensure that each student receives the appropriate amount of support during the dissertation process and facilitates completion of the dissertation in a timely manner. In addition, this policy will ensure an equitable distribution of dissertation advisement among faculty. The following criteria will be followed by faculty:

  1. For each incoming class, each faculty member may accept up to 2 students per year to serve as their dissertation chair.
  2. Each faculty member may chair up to 10 total committees at any given time. If a faculty member exceeds the limit they may no longer accept any new students.
  3. For this policy, co-chairing counts as chairing a committee. 
  4. This limit includes faculty members in educational psychology as it applies to school psychology students. That is, an educational psychology faculty member could agree to chair the dissertation committee of up to 2 school psychology students per year, chairing up to a total of 10 school psychology dissertation committees at any one time. 
  5. This policy is to go into effect for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Prior to approaching a faculty member and selecting a committee chair, it is recommended that students visit with the departmental secretary who keeps track of the number of committees each faculty member chairs.

Plan of Study (Doctoral Degree Check Sheet)

After developing a doctoral committee, students are expected to develop their Plan of Study and have it approved by their committee. The Plan of Study outlines the sequence of courses students will complete while in the program. In addition, the Plan of Study outlines the courses that will be completed to fulfill the identified cognate. The Plan of Study is expected to be completed and approved by the doctoral committee no later than the end of the fall semester of the 3rd year. It is important to note that the Plan of Study can be revised; however, all committee members must agree to the revisions. Typically, revisions are made when students change their cognate, a course that was going to be offered has been cancelled, and/or students decide to replace a course with another course that they are more interested in taking.

It is important to note that courses listed under the cognate area on the Doctoral Degree Check Sheet cannot also be listed under the specialization area (school psychology). Specifically, courses cannot be used to satisfy both the specialization area course requirements and the cognate course requirements.

Credit Requirements

The program requires a minimum of five academic years of full-time study beyond the baccalaureate degree, including four years of full-time coursework (including summer courses) and a one-year internship. The graduate school requires candidates to complete, including the dissertation, a minimum of 90 semester hours of graduate work beyond the bachelor’s degree (Graduate Catalog). However, the doctoral program in school psychology requires students to complete, including the dissertation, a minimum of 135 semester hours of graduate work beyond the bachelor’s degree.

Advanced Graduate Status

After the student has earned a minimum of 12 hours of graduate credit beyond the master’s degree with outstanding scholarship at Ball State and has had the plan of study approved by his or her committee, the student will be admitted to advanced graduate status.

School Psychology Practicum Hours

The total minimum number of practicum hours required of all PhD students is 550. These hours are in addition to hours required for individual testing courses such as EDPS 651 and EDPS 654. Of the 550 hours, at least 200 hours must involve direct service and 100 hours must be met under formally scheduled supervision. No student will receive a grade for practicum or start internship until he/she has:

  1. Completed an exit interview with his/her practicum supervisor.
  2. Been judged competent to proceed based on the final evaluation.

Development of a Portfolio

Throughout the program, students are required to develop an online portfolio. This portfolio provides a systematic and organized collection of evidence concerning a student’s professional competencies and personal growth and professional development. The goal of the portfolio is for students to develop a means for purposeful self-appraisal that can be used during their careers in school psychology. The portfolios document a collection of work that show a student’s efforts, progress, and achievement in specified areas of practice.

The portfolio is not intended to replace graded evaluation in classes. Rather, it is a collection of artifacts that are linked to rationale and reflective statements addressing the goals of the program. Although artifacts may include assignments that have already been evaluated in a particular class, individual artifacts are not assessed within the portfolio. Instead, the format provides opportunities for students to connect their field and classroom experiences and to reflect on how the selected products illustrate their growth and understanding of the knowledge base, professional roles, or responsibilities the artifacts represent. This level of self-assessment is typically not seen in most classroom-based assessments.

A vehicle for reflection, the portfolio is essential to the self-study process in that it is a measure of a student’s development of self-evaluation skills and his/her ability to document acquired competencies and monitor areas of academic and professional development.

Guidelines and structure for initial portfolio development are referenced in the Practicum Handbook. Portfolios are used in prepracticum and practicum classes to evaluate the degree to which first and second year students are able to demonstrate proficiency in the skills necessary to organize a professional portfolio as well as select evidence of competencies. Evidence students might include are examples of psychological evaluations, indirect and direct intervention cases, analysis of an ethical/legal dilemma, an in-service presentation, a quality research paper, and a review of professional literature related to an area of specialization. A curriculum vita and other program elements related to their professional preparation can also be part of the portfolio. The portfolio is organized to address the attainment of the program’s goals is assessed as part of Part II of the comprehension exam process. Results of the evaluations are entered into rGrade. The practicum coordinator is responsible for making sure portfolios are evaluated after the completion of practicum and the director (Dr. Andrew Davis) is responsible for portfolio ratings being entered into rGrade after being evaluated by the student’s doctoral committee.

Development of Professional Disposition

Professional disposition is an important component of practice in school psychology. The school psychology programs at Ball State affirm that it is our responsibility to articulate and demonstrate the professional dispositions we expect of our students. Students are expected to acquire, nurture, and maintain a professional disposition during their programs of study and throughout their professional careers. To this end, the definition of professional dispositions embraced by the program includes personality features, as well as beliefs and values that influence the student’s behavior and relationships in professional settings. Clearly, long-standing patterns of behavior influence the student’s professional demeanor. These involve, but are not limited to, being cooperative, flexible, patient, and empathetic. Psychologists with positive dispositions are self-assured, confident, and openly honest. Although difficult to evaluate, these behaviors are most often demonstrated through one’s actions and the quality of interactions with colleagues, supervisors, clients, families and supervisees. Opportunities to develop these behaviors are embedded in our courses, practica, and internships. In clinical settings, professional disposition is seen in a student’s flexibility and willingness to adjust assessment and intervention strategies to the needs, interests, and diverse backgrounds of the client.

Student attitudes essential for lifelong learning, scholarly inquiry, and professional problem solving as psychologists are continually reinforced throughout the doctoral program. Faculty encourage and provide continual opportunities for students to participate in professional activities outside of the classroom context, including opportunities to participate in collaborative and/or faculty-supervised independent research, practicum experiences, service activities, and presentations at professional conferences (e.g., the American Psychological Association).

Procedures for Completion of Comprehensive Exams for Doctoral Candidates in Educational Psychology (School)

Each student must complete a two-part Comprehensive Examination process. Part I involves achieving a minimum score on the State Specialty Examination in School Psychology, administered by ETS. Part II involves the comprehensive written examination. The process for completing Part I and II is outlined below:

  1. The candidate’s doctoral committee may serve as his or her examining committee. However, if the doctoral committee does not include two members of the school psychology core faculty, then the School Psychology Core Committee will assign a member of the school psychology faculty to the examining committee.
  2. Prior to taking the written examination, the candidate must complete and have on file a passing score on the State School Psychology exam (presently 165 or higher). This is typically completed between the second and third years of the program.
  3. Comprehensive written examinations will take place during a two-week period in the fall and spring semesters and will be primarily based on the candidate’s portfolio. Candidates must submit in writing to the chair of the candidate’s doctoral committee his or her intentions to complete comprehensives by the second Monday of the term (August/ September or January) in which the candidate wishes to complete the exam.
  4. The core committee will release specific dates for preliminary exams following their first meeting of the fall and spring semesters. The written examination and portfolio submission will take place during the fifth or sixth week of the same term, with the oral defense to take place within three weeks of the written portion. Failure to meet these deadlines will cancel the candidate’s opportunity to complete the examination during that cycle. Scheduling of written and oral comprehensives will be done in order of request by candidates.
  5. The written portion of the exam will consist of two parts:
    • By the date specified by the core committee for submission of written materials, the candidate’s portfolio account will be made available to the members of the committee for review. Members of the committee will rate the level of quality of the student’s evidence for competently completing the program’s goals based on the portfolio rubrics developed for rGrade. The committee will have the option to meet in person or via email to discuss the student’s portfolio performance. Acceptable performance will be determined by an average rating of 3 or higher for each of the major goal areas. If the portfolio meets this criteria, the portfolio portion of the examination will be considered “passed,” If not, the student will be given feedback regarding areas of weakness and will be asked to resubmit a stronger portfolio prior to the oral examination.
    • One week before the date specified by the core committee for the written portion of the examination, the candidate will be provided with 6 to 10 questions by the chair of the doctoral committee drawn from the bank of standard questions developed and approved by the school psychology core committee. The actual core examination will consist of 3 questions (or 6 questions paired so that the candidate chooses 3) chosen by the doctoral chair and at least two other members of the committee from the 6 to 10 questions already provided to the candidate. The candidate schedule 3 hours during a 1-week period to sit and write responses to the questions (e.g., 3 hours on 1 day, 2 hours and 1 hour on 2 consecutive days). The selected question is given out prior to the session, not as a group at the beginning of the prelim. The total question bank will be available to students who wish to begin preparation for preliminary exams 1 semester before their actual planned examination period.
    • The cognate examination will be developed by the cognate representative in consultation with the chair of the committee, or (if the chair is also the cognate representative) with a second member of the committee. These two members of the committee will determine the format of the cognate exam. Possible formats might include (but are not limited to) questions for which the student would have 6 hours to write responses during the examining period or a paper (e.g., review of literature or pilot study) to be submitted during the examining period. Although the paper option may be related to the student’s dissertation topic, the paper cannot be used directly as any chapter of the dissertation. The chair of the committee will collect the written examination responses for the core and cognate areas and make them available to committee members so that each may read the total examination.
  6. The chair will call a meeting of the committee with the student not present (this may occur immediately prior to the oral portion of the examination) to:
    • Discuss the quality of the portfolio and the examination responses, individually and as a whole.
    • Agree on the evaluation of the student's performance on the written examination.
    • Agree on areas to be emphasized in the oral examination if the written examination warrants completion of the comprehensives.
  7. The student schedules, in consultation with the chair, the oral portion of the comprehensive examination within three weeks (exclusive of vacation periods) after the written portion has been completed.
  8. The committee agrees, in private session subsequent to completion of the oral examination, on the results of the comprehensive examinations. If two or more committee members dissent, the student fails the examination and it must be repeated per University policy and procedures.
  9. Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student may commence with the submission of the dissertation proposal.

It is important to note that the comprehensive exams must be completed and passed (along with an approved dissertation proposal) prior to a student applying for a professional internship.

Admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree

Students may apply for admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree after completing a minimum of 30 hours of graduate work beyond the master’s degree with an outstanding scholastic record, satisfactorily passing the comprehensive examinations, and submitting a satisfactory plan for the proposed dissertation.

Research Requirement

Doctoral students are required to present a poster or paper at a national or regional professional meeting (e.g., American Psychological Association, National Association of School Psychologists, National Academy of Neuropsychology), submit a manuscript for possible publication in a refereed journal, or write a book chapter prior to completing their prelims. Reviews and content synopses (e.g., encyclopedia entries, definitions, abstracts) will not meet this requirement. Students must be the senior author on posters or papers presented at national or regional conferences. However, students do not have to be senior authors on manuscripts submitted to refereed journals for possible publication or book chapters. It is okay to be a co-author.


Students must have successfully completed all practicum requirements, preliminary examinations, and have their doctoral dissertation proposal approved prior to applying for and accepting an internship. The Director of Doctoral Internships, Dr. Janay Sander, approves all internship placements. During the fall semester (typically in last September or early October), the director of doctoral internships conducts a mandatory meeting for all PhD students. During this meeting, the program’s internship requirements, the process for applying for APA and APPIC internships, and the timeline for applying for internships are reviewed.

During the past seven years all of our students completed paid internships. Intern sites for PhD students are selected and maintained on the basis of their capacity to offer the most comprehensive repertoire of experiences within the allotted time period. Each site is expected to meet the requirements necessary for licensure as a psychologist/health service provider. Further, the site should allow trainees to develop new knowledge and skills and to take substantial responsibility for carrying out major professional functions with appropriate supervisory support and consistent with ethical and legal practices.

Primary considerations in the selection and maintenance of intern sites include the availability for contact with a doctoral-level psychologist for supervision, access to a cross section of clients/students (based on age, ethnicity, exceptionality), contact with a variety of community agencies, provision of a full range of special education services for persons with disabilities as well as regular education programming.

APPIC member and APA approved internships are emphasized. The majority of students have completed an APPIC member and/or an APA approved internship. If a student has not pursued an APPIC member or APA approved internship, students still complete internships that meet the same requirements in terms of hours, supervision, and length. Further, all interns must complete at least 600 hours of internship in a school setting.

Externship Opportunities

Students interested in completing the 600 school-based internship hours (NASP requirement) prior to completing a traditional internship in psychology may do so by completing an externship. Students often choose to complete an externship prior to completing the full-year internship so they can complete an internship in a non-school setting (e.g., hospital, mental health center, private practice). Externships typically are reserved for third, fourth, and fifth year doctoral students. The program has developed partnerships with several school districts close to Ball State and students can request to be matched with a school when the school psychology core conducts the graduate assistantship match each spring. Specifically, students can complete the 600 hour school-based requirement as part of a graduate assistantship. Students must work closely with the Director of Doctoral Internships and submit a plan for completing the 600 hour school-based internship. In addition, students must enroll in EDPS 791: Doctoral Internship in School Psychology for two consecutive semesters and attend weekly seminar classes. Students also must receive weekly one-on-one, face-to-face supervision by a licensed school psychologist or a licensed psychologist for a minimum of two hours per week. It is important to note that the externship does not meet the program’s requirement of a full-year internship and that students must complete a full-year professional internship prior to gradation.

Ball State University School Psychology Internship Consortium

The Ball State University School Psychology Internship Consortium also provides internship opportunities for students. The consortium is listed in the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs Internship Directory  and meets the same internship requirements as APPIC members. The program maintains complete control and oversight of the internship ensuring the quality of the internships. Each intern must have at least two licensed psychologists as supervisors, attend weekly group supervision, participate in weekly seminars, and complete at least 2000 hours of internship over no less than 12 months. In addition, each intern is required to receive no less than two hours of individual, face-to-face, supervision from a licensed psychologist each week and two hours of group supervision each week. There must be at least two interns participating in the consortium each year for the consortium opportunity to be available. Students are required to enroll in EDPS 792: Doctoral Internship in Professional Psychology (6 credit hours) as part of consortium.

In the past, the Ball State Neuropsychology Laboratory, Ball State Psychoeducational, Diagnostic, and Intervention Clinic, St. Vincent Medical Center, Ball State Burris Laboratory School, Cummings Mental Health, Hillcroft Applied Behavior Analysis Clinic, Fort Wayne Neurological Center, and local school districts have participated in the internship consortium. Prior to soliciting internship sites, students must obtain the consent of the director of doctoral internships. A written agreement must be approved by the director before any contract can be signed. Students must agree to any additional requirements imposed by the director. Historically, students have had few problems obtaining appropriate well-paying internships within Indiana. To date, all students have completed a paid internship.


The general supervision of the dissertation will be the responsibility of each student’s committee chairperson. Whenever needed, members of the committee will advise candidates about the dissertation. All dissertation topics must have the potential to contribute to the field of psychology. The comprehensive written and oral examinations must be passed and the dissertation proposal approved by the committee before students enrolls for Dissertation (DISS 799) or Internship.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal must consist of Chapters 1- 3: Introduction, Literature Review, and Methods. The expectation is that the proposal will consist of three complete chapters and not abbreviated chapters. The approved proposal cannot be a prospectus of the full proposal. If a student chooses to use the paper option as part of his/her comprehensive exams (cognate) it is important to note that it may be related to the student’s dissertation topic; however, the paper cannot be used directly as any chapter of the dissertation. Students must provide a copy of the proposal (electronic or hardcopy) to all committee members at least two weeks prior to the final examination.

Final Examination

Each candidate takes a final oral examination covering the dissertation. The oral examination will be administered by his/her committee. The time and place of the defense must be announced to the university community at least ten days in advance. Students must provide a copy of the dissertation (electronic or hardcopy) to all committee members at least two weeks prior to the final examination. No defense will be conducted without all committee members present, unless prior consent is granted by the graduate dean in consultation with the chairperson of the examining committee and the absent committee member. When the final oral examination is passed, the student will be recommended to receive the formal degree. Candidates must complete all degree requirements at least two weeks before the end of the semester or term in which they plan to graduate (see graduate school requirements for electronic submission of the dissertation).